Friend and Fashion Designer - Tessa Clark
My good friend, Tessa Clark, displayed her Grind and Glaze collection at the 2016 DAAP Fashion Show last Friday. It was truly an inspiration to see all of her ideas come to life on the stage.
I will get to her collection and a little Q&A with Tessa Baby (as she named herself in my phone) towards the end of this post. I want to start off by giving a little background on Tessa and me.
Tessa and I have been friends now for about 10 years. We met through a mutual friend, Lucy Stephens. Tess and I are so incredibly different, but there is so much about us that is the same too. There are things that I’m stronger at; there are things that she is stronger at. We can learn from one another; which is, in my opinion, the best type of relationship. I know that she is a real friend because she is one of those people I can be 100% honest with, even if I’m saying something she does not want to hear. She is going to still be there by my side at the end of the day. That goes both ways. That may seem like a quality that is easy to come by, but when you have gone through as much as we have gone through together – it really isn’t. A lot of people would not have been able to handle it. And even though we both live busy and different lives, we are always there for each other – even if it’s a couple days later.
We have been through so much together. We have experienced love and loss together. We have experienced tragedy together. She has been there, even if it’s just on the phone, when I have needed nothing more than to cry to get it all out. Tessa loves hard like I do. Tessa over-thinks like I do (terrible habit). Tessa feels everything 10 times more than other people do – like I do.
I give so much credit and thanks to Tessa and Lucy. Without them I would have never done so many things. I would have never discovered my love for traveling, fashion and photography. I have traveled all over the world with Tessa. We even visited Lucy in Spain once upon a time. They are part of my story. They were always meant to be in my life, and I thank them for it. They inspire and motivate me.
There is so much more that I could say about our friendship. How we both talk in baby voices when we get excited about things. How we know what the other is thinking without having to say anything. I could tell you about that crazy, drunken fight we had in the streets of Paris – followed by laughing and eating cheese on the floor. I could tell you about that one time we were laughing so hard while spilling root beer in my car at Jim’s, but you would not understand. I could go on and on and on. She is one of my very best friends. I love her so very much, I would never betray her and I would do anything for her.
Tessa’s hometown neighbors my hometown. She is from Greenville, Ohio. She lives in a barn. No, really, she does. If you are from the Greenville/Arcanum area, I am sure that you know of Bear’s Mill. However, you may not know that the Clark family has looked after the mill since 1979.
Q&A with Tessa Clark
Q: So, since I mentioned your barn house, tell us about it in your own words.
A: My mother was only 24 when her and my dad purchased Bear's Mill and the surrounding property in 1979. There was a tobacco drying barn adjacent to the mill, and they made it their goal to turn the barn into their home. They renovated the barn themselves– my dad had a background in carpentry and timber framing. They lived in various sections of the barn as they renovated it. My dad taught himself how to operate the mill and grind flour, and my mother made ceramics in her studio on the bottom level of the barn. In their spare time they worked on their home.
(Below) Photos of the barn house by Tessa.
I've only ever had one "home" – and it's the barn next to the mill. Growing up, I knew it was different, but I loved that it was. The barn – our home – represents my parents in the best of ways. They took something old, and made it new. They appreciate history, art, nature, and design and they combined those things to become the place where they could create, entertain, relax and call home. It's been a dreamy place to grow up and visit! The barn and mill sit along the creek and millrace on the edge of the woods. Nature has been a huge part of my upbringing. I like to open the backdoors of the house and let the breeze in. The trees are so tall around the house, the setting seems almost magical. Growing up living in a barn next to a mill has influenced me to lead a creative lifestyle. I can't imagine not living in a renovated or historic home of some sort once I'm more established in my career... I'll make it my goal.
I love her house and the mill.
Q: What is DAAP?
A: DAAP stands for Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. These are each different schools within the college of DAAP at the University of Cincinnati. I began in the School of Art in DAAP studying fine arts, then I transitioned to the School of Design to study graphic communication design, ultimately changing my major to fashion design.
Q: Your thesis collection is titled Grind and Glaze. Why the name?
A: An ode to the universe in which I grew up, Grind and Glaze is the reflection of my past imagination. Dreamlike memories of the water-powered mill, the woods, and the barn illustrate my lyrical upbringing, while the art of flour and clay, elements of wabi sabi, and the sacredness of hands pay homage to my parents: the miller and the potter. Through my childhood eyes, I have created this collection for a woman who I imagined would wear it while spending time in the daydreams of my youth. Exaggerated sleeves protect the hands, and black porcelain hardware, handmade by my mother, embody the imperfection found in wabi sabi aesthetics.
Q: Describe this process (creating your collection) in one word.
Q: What was the hardest part of this process? What was the best part?
A: (hardest part) Making sure that my designs were cohesive with one another, but also that they connected back to my inspiration. Also, editing– sometimes it's a challenge in itself to refrain from doing it 'all' in one collection. It's hard to hold back and edit what design elements to put in and what not to. Now I can put those edit ideas towards the next collection! Which is something to look forward to.
(best part) Seeing my designs become cohesive and translate my ideas and inspiration. The entire semester was devoted solely to created these designs, which was the first time I had this much time to dedicate to perfecting my designs, patterns and garments. I also grew in my sewing abilities!
Q: How did it feel seeing your thesis collection come down the runway?
A: Relief and pride! I was on the verge of tears at first, but adrenaline kicked in. Overall I'd say it was surreal. It happened so fast, but I couldn't have asked for a better presentation. The look of my models really captured the muse I was going for. The runway presentation is exciting for everyone to see, but I'm also excited for my editorial shoot, where details of garments and mood will be the focus.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a designer?
A: I love creating. I love brainstorming with others to try to create something new and innovative. I also like that design can be about solving a problem. And now, after my education, I have so many resources and skill sets to solve problems, to design and to collaborate with others!
Q: Favorite thing about the fashion industry in general?
A: I like seeing movements towards sustainability. Eileen Fisher has established Vision-2020, an effort to be completely sustainable by the year 2020, and Emma Watson recently wore a completely sustainable look to the Met Gala. In an industry where there is so much waste, mistreatment of workers and excess, it's nice to see efforts towards a healthier industry and away from fast fashion. I also like the fact that I am in this industry where I design things for people to wear... it's kind of surreal. Sometimes my friends and I discuss how fun and interesting it is to be a part of the industry that creates beautiful things that people put on every single day.
Q: When you have “designer’s block” – where do you go/what do you do to get inspired?
A: Sometimes if I'm not feeling it or if I can't seem to get something right, I take a step back and look at it later. I look to a lot of things for inspiration. Most of my inspiration comes from my upbringing– where and how I grew up. I also try to people watch when I'm out and about... I like to see what women are wearing, what they want in clothing. I hope to create garments that make women confident and sexy but aren't over revealing. A lot of women I know, myself included, like casual clothing... but appreciate the luxe side of the industry. I try to keep both of those things in mind when designing, I hope to continue creating casual clothing out of luxe fabrics. I like that juxtaposition. So, I look to women, to nature, to my mom and I try to think about what I want personally in my wardrobe.
Q: For anyone that is considering a career in fashion design - what advice do you have for them?
A: I want to encourage them to pursue it! It's a very competitive industry and is hard work, but it's fun and definitely has it's perks. I want to also encourage them to do their research on sustainability, to watch the True Cost, look into slow fashion, and to be considerate of what truly happens behind the scenes of the industry. It isn't pretty. Make a difference, and be a part of the change that is happening, and educate others!
Q: What’s next for you?
A: For a month this summer, I am co-teaching in Hawaii with an assistant DAAP professor. We are teaching research of endemic Hawaiian flora and fauna, trend research and developing prints in the traditional ohe kapala printmaking technique. After that, I hope to work for a sustainable and transparent company in New York City. Sometime down the line, I'd love to start my own label. For now, I would like to get more industry experience.
More photos (by me) from the 2016 DAAP Fashion Show:
Designer: Jia Yee Ni
Designer: Brandon Bowers
A Radiating Tokyoite
Designer: Kaitlin Ertel
The Last Trip
Designer: Jamila Jones